Public works

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - Bron­wyn Wat­son

Michael Zavros, The Phoenix (2015). Col­lec­tion Art Gallery of South Aus­tralia. James & Di­ana Ramsay Fund sup­ported by Philip Ba­con through the Art Gallery of South Aus­tralia Foun­da­tion 2016. On dis­play, Art Gallery of South Aus­tralia, Ade­laide. Back in the 5th cen­tury BC, two of an­cient Greece’s best artists de­cided to stage the ul­ti­mate paint­ing duel to de­cide who was the greater artist. As Pliny the El­der tells it in his Nat­u­ralis His­to­ria, it was a de­ci­sive con­test, with the two men try­ing to out­wit each other with a vir­tu­oso dis­play of re­al­is­tic paint­ing.

The first to re­veal his work was Zeuxis. When he un­veiled his paint­ing, it was a bowl of grapes that looked so real, birds swooped down to try to eat them. With such a skil­ful work, Zeuxis was pretty sure he had won, and he went to draw back the cur­tain that was con­ceal­ing the work of his com­peti­tor, Par­rha­sius. But when Zeuxis tried to draw back the cur­tain, he re­alised the cur­tain itself was the paint­ing and he had been fooled. He is quoted as say­ing: “I have de­ceived the birds, but Par­rha­sius has de­ceived Zeuxis.” Par­rha­sius was de­clared the greater painter.

This leg­endary com­pe­ti­tion, with its em­pha­sis on trompe l’oeil, or trick of the eye, has had reper­cus­sions through­out art his­tory. In the 18th and 19th cen­turies, for in­stance, sto­ries such as this were used to en­cour­age the study of an­cient Greek artists and how to bet­ter achieve ef­fec­tive il­lu­sion­ism.

The con­test be­tween Zeuxis and Par­rha­sius is also rein­ter­preted in the work of con­tem­po­rary Queens­land-based artist Michael Zavros, who for more than 20 years has cre­ated metic­u­lous pho­to­re­al­is­tic paint­ings.

One of his lat­est paint­ings, The Phoenix, has just been ac­quired by the Art Gallery of South Aus­tralia. This work was cre­ated es­pe­cially for last year’s Ade­laide Bi­en­nial of Aus­tralian Art: Magic Ob­ject but it is back on dis­play.

The gallery’s cu­ra­tor of con­tem­po­rary art, Leigh Robb, says view­ers as­sume The Phoenix is a pho­to­graph un­til they get up close. She says it

Oil on can­vas; 220cm x 200cm

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.